5 Questions for Hub City's Next Writer-in-Residence
What excites you most about Spartanburg and the Writers House program?
It’s been a big year of travel, which I’m excited to continue. I love the freedom, the delicious sort of anonymity, that comes with being a stranger in a new place. I’m always delighted to see new places that my poems have taken me. And on an artistic level, I’m raring to get started on my new project: a series of personal and meditative essays. I’ve thought of myself as a poet first and the prospect of getting messy in a new genre will be thrilling.
We’re a very place-centered organization. You’ve spent much of your life abroad and have plans to continue work on your travelogue while here. Can you speak to how the idea of place intersects with your writing?
I was talking to a dear friend about this the other day. She and her family have lived in basically the same area for many years, and we brought up the idea of how I’m from a place but not FROM a place—if that makes sense. I do say I’m from Florida (largely to skip the mess of having to explain my roving military background) and while it’s true I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else in my life, I’ve long had a vexed relationship to my idea of place and home. I’m not sure I can properly be called a Southern poet but the poems are Southern. I moved here at 12 and left when I was 22; so while I may not have roots here or a hometown connection, there’s definitely a psychic residue, an emotional connection. How can there not be? This glowing, amorphous state, half land, half sea. The wildness of the environment. The violent relationship this state has had and continues to have in regards to race. These are things I’m always thinking about in my writing.
Every Writer-in-Residence has to give back to our community while in Spartanburg. Can you speak a little to your plans for community service while in town?
So I’ve never done this before but I’m scheming to do a digital reading series focusing on emerging writers. There are so many poets, fiction writers, and essayists doing tremendous work! However, it’s hard to get out in the world and promote one’s work: finding the time and energy to travel as well as finding venues that compensate for our work (the writing life may not be the most lucrative mode but what we do is still work). But thanks to the magic of the internet, a projector, and a screen—voila!—we can bring a writer anywhere in the world. It’ll be a magical way, I think, to bring a bit of my community to Spartanburg’s.
You’ll be the first Writers House resident to have a book released during your time here. Your poetry collection, Trouble the Water, won the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize and will be released from BOA Editions in the spring. Can you tell us about both the book and the publishing process so far?
Well, that’s a cool feather in my cap! Trouble the Water is my first book. The poems meditate on religion, race, sexuality, and art along the Florida Gulf Coast and Mediterranean Europe. It’s a book that, I hope, asks us to deeply consider the ways we pass through the world, what we leave in our wakes aching to connect. It’s been a six year journey from the oldest poem in book being written to the book being published, and I’m so happy to be working with BOA. They’ve been the absolute sweetest and so enthusiastic about the work, consummate professionals. I couldn’t have asked for a better home for my book.
Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun? Where might we see you on a Saturday afternoon this summer?
I’m not the greatest cook, but I do love to experiment and make something yummy in the kitchen. Top two forms of stress relief: long walks and dancing. At night I’m usually watching something soapy or campy on TV like Scandal, How To Get Away with Murder, and RuPaul’s Drag Race. But these Saturday afternoons I’ll likely be at the bar that makes the best gin and tonics, reading something good.